Hi there, fellow SpeedHolics.
Speed is my stimulus, my challenge, my way to get outside of and away from the box. For me, speed is synonymous with competition. It's also a big part of one of my earliest childhood memories. I was six, maybe seven years old, and with my friends we did a lot of things that would be considered really crazy today. But some context is needed first: I was born in Civenna on March 11th, 1943 above Lake Como, just a stone's throw from the mountain pass on Madonna del Ghisallo.
That stretch of road is best known for cyclists as many prestigious races pass through there, including the Giro d'Italia.
We kids, crazy as were, tried emulating the great two wheeled racing champions by throwing ourselves down that traffic prone, unpaved road in our trolleys, dodging cars and potholes and stray rocks with little more than daring and a good helping of fortune. We built the trolleys ourselves, with a wooden axle and old ball bearings begged from the local mechanic for wheels. The Axle? A broomstick with two nails pointed sideways at such an extreme angle that any surge of turbulence on the downhill run could rip the bearings off. When we reached the bottom and ran out of momentum, up we'd come again, sticking to the cyclists who trained along the pass.
Great champions trained there too: I remember Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali well. I knew them all.
The problem was getting home, with the marks and scars of our challenges on the knees of our pants and on the elbows of our sweaters.
It happened there, on those trolleys launched towards the bowels of Madonna del Ghisallo, that the rush of velocity began to flow in my veins. When I was fourteen, my father gave me a DEMM 48 and I started doing motorcycle races in village festivals. For those of my generation, the DEMM is a kind of myth. It took little effort to reach 80 kilometers per hour, and had a system where its bicycle pedals, common to all mopeds at the time, could be locked in a certain position -- turning them into de facto motorcycle cranks. Then came another motorcycle, the Iso Moto, and finally came the car.
My first real race was at Monza on November 24, 1962, behind the wheel of my Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider 1300 Veloce. I took the caps out of the rims to make more of a visual statement, and took the terminal to make more noise. I didn't know this would affect my performance. But it didn't matter -- I was a pilot. I was a race car driver.
Fifty-nine years later, I can honestly say I'm a lucky man.
Not only did I experience the boldest and most beautiful era of racing first hand and come out alive, I've also never stopped racing. Even now at 78 years of age, if I ever think about hanging up my helmet and gloves, I become filled with that same old passion for speed, for velocity, for the thrill. It keeps me alive. It keeps me young.
I can't help it. You can call me a SpeedHolic.
Photo Credits: Girardo&Co.